Billie Jean Causes a Scene at the National Zoo

Spectacled bear cubs born at National Zoo

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Smithsonian Institution
    Billie Jean smiles at Nikki on the prowl for love.

    Zookeepers at the National Zoo say Billie Jean is definitely the one!  They are not sure if they have two sons, two daughters or one of each on their hands, there are apparently two brand new Andean bear cubs at the National Zoo -- and Billie Jean is the mama.

    She is believed to have given birth to twins within 24 hours apart about six weeks ago. While attendants haven’t gotten close enough to check the number of newborns for sure, there’s no dispute over just who the papa bear is. Keepers said there is no question -- Nikki is the one and only.

    The cubs are believed to have been born to 4-year-old Billie Jean on the mornings of Jan. 14 and 15 in a secluded section of her indoor exhibit at the zoo. The staff has been listening to what they believe are two distinct simultaneous cries and squeals coming from the den, confirming the expected outcome of the pregnancy.

    Using ultrasound exams in December, veterinarians were able to see two growing fetuses. It has been 22 years since the previous birth of even one cub of the species Tremarctos ornatus (also known as the spectacled bear) at the National Zoo.

    There was no plan to disturb Billie Jean and her tiny cubs for at least several weeks. Newborns of the species generally weigh only 10 to 18 ounces at birth and are totally dependent on their mothers for the first six weeks. So far, Billie Jean is doing everything right, keepers said, and there is no need for them to interfere.

    Meanwhile, it seems the zoo's plan to shape up 18-year-old Nikki paid off. When he arrived at the National Zoo three years ago, he was severely overweight. The zoo put him on a strict diet and exercise regime, and he lost almost 200 pounds.

    His new physique apparently made a difference. Zoo officials were happy to attribute the twins to natural mating in June.

    If Nikki were human, you might say he'd no doubt be over the moon -- if not moonwalking -- about his new cubs.